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Notes for a TV Documentary from Jeremy Sandford

I Married a Gypsy

Gypsy/non-Gypsy romances - do they work?

What happens when a non-Gypsy marries a Gypsy?

Romany Gypsies, living in their thousands in caravans, on council sites, or on roadside verges, often discourage their children from marrying into the settled population.

Non-Gypsies too often have reservations about their sons or daughters marrying into the Gypsies.

Often there’s prejudice in both directions. Both sides frequently claim that such marriages are a recipe for disaster.

But, what actually happens when a non-Gypsy falls in love with a Gypsy?

Do these marriages actually work?

Does the house-dwelling partner abandon house dwelling ways and adopt the Gypsy lifestyle?

Or does the Romany say goodbye to the caravan and most things they are used to and move into a house with the settled people?

We present Romani Gypsies and their house dwelling spouses talking frankly of the pleasures - and pitfalls - of Gypsy/non/Gypsy marriages.


Ted Atkinson, a Somerset house-dwelling wheelwright, fell in love with the daughter of one of the Gypsies who brought their horse-drawn wagons to him to be fixed.

Not only the girl, but also the Gypsy lifestyle, intrigued him. He’s collected a score of horse-drawn caravans from the time when most Gypsies were making the move into caravans drawn by vehicles. He founded a museum of Gypsy culture at Axbridge where he holds Gypsy campfire sing-songs, himself performs Gypsy songs and has an extensive repertoire. Ted has become more Gypsy than the Gypsies.

Evelyn Smith was a house-dwelling schoolgirl when she fell in love with a Gypsy. She left house, family, relatives, most of the life she had known so far and adopted the lifestyle of a Gypsy ‘rakli’.

She still lives in a caravan on a council Gypsy site and has no intention of returning to the world of the house-dwellers.

There has, though, been a major tragedy. A year or two after her marriage, her Gypsy husband was stabbed to death in a brawl.

Grattan Puxon, son of an Essex solicitor, became the non-Gypsy secretary of the Gypsy Council, met a Rumanian Gypsy Rakli at an international Romani conference, wooed and married her in a traditional Romani ceremony.

This marriage, however, did not last. Grattan later married another Gypsy girl and the brothers of the first are said to be still trying to trace him, swearing mayhem.

Tom Odley is another house-dweller who fell in love with a Gypsy girl and became more Gypsy than the Gypsies. He lives on a council Gypsy site in Kent and has represented British Gypsies at international conferences. He composes and performs songs about the Gypsy predicament.

Esmeralda Whatton is one of the many Gypsy lasses who married a house-dweller and adopted the lifestyle of the ‘Gorgios’. The beautiful Esmeralda went to live among the dreaming spires of Oxford as the bride of an Oxford don.

Our programme will consist of Gypsies and non-Gypsies talking on council sites, in houses, or camped illegally by the roadside, talking frankly and poignantly about their marriages in a programme rich in humour, pathos, and human interest.

We will also be following them to some of the great Gypsy horse fairs, such as Appleby or Stowe, where Gypsy meets Gypsy, and Gypsy meets non-Gypsy, and many sparks follow!


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